By Berit Anderson
Amory Lovins, Chairman and Chief Scientist of the Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI), is a big-picture alternative energy type, with the background to prove it. Author of 29 published books and with 11 honorary doctorates, Lovins was named a MacArthur Fellow. In 2009, Time Magazine named him one of the Top 100 Most Influential People.
A lifetime of alternative energy expertise is laid out in his new report with the RMI, Reinventing Fire. The report is a unique road-map for a future without fossil fuels. A future that assumes carbon emissions are worth zero and requires no added federal laws or taxes.
The key to success in Lovins’ plan is the reinvention of American industry. “We must leave oil before it leaves us,” he announced to a crowd of Seattleites at Town Hall last week. To Lovins and the RMI, this means many things -- the end of fuel-hungry building and construction, the beginning of utilities powered by distributed renewable energy and rewarded for selling less, rather than more.
But the first step in converting Americans from oil-crazed to oil-blase, Lovins says, is in revolutionizing the auto industry.
Ultra-lightweight vehicles. Hybrids and electric vehicles, by themselves, will not save us from our own oil addiction. Cars, planes and trucks must be reinvented as lightweight vehicles made out of carbon fiber-- not the obese steel things we know today. Ultra-lighting, Lovins claimed, halves not just a vehicle’s weight, but its fuel use, making it easier to propel with less energy. Even speed demons will be happy with this new plan. “Ultralight vehicles go very fast and they’re radar stealthy,” Lovins assured us.
Feebates. To encourage the purchase of these new uber-light vehicles, Lovins has invented a purchasing program for vehicle manufacturers called “feebates”. A fee is added to the price tag of older heavier, less fuel-efficient vehicles, while the new ultra-lights come at a discount. The one finances the other. The goal, of course, is to turn over the US’ stock of overweight, inefficient vehicles, and encourage automakers to develop light, fuel-efficient replacements.
Real-time driving costs. Also on Lovins’ docket is the institution of a new system for charging drivers per mile, rather than per gallon. As roads become more crowded, the cost per mile goes up. This indirectly regulates traffic on busy roads and encourages alternative routes and transportation forms. All of which contribute to less energy use.
How can the average person influence the manufacturing decisions of Detroit’s biggest players? Though implementing greener prototype development is the responsibility of Ford and GM managers, reinforcing this kind of corporate responsibility lies on the shoulders of company employees, shareholders and car owners.
If we look honestly at corporate personhood, it is clear that money and insiders must unfortunately do the talking for maximum influence. As Lovins announced to his Seattle audience, “Our energy future is not fate but choice. And that choice is in the hands of people like you.”
Berit Anderson develops and executes strategy to encourage the spread of responsible business. Berit manages CSRHUB's social media outreach and develops business and community relationships. Her background in media and community relations runs the gamut from non-profit sustainability magazines to 24-hour corporate news operations and forward-looking tech publishers. When she isn't busy building bridges with language, Berit studies Arabic, explores the great outdoors, or takes to the garden, where she merges her loves of local food, urban agriculture and education. Weaknesses include large, fluffy canines and Reeses peanut butter cups.